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Press Briefing by U.S. Dept. of Sta
- Subject: Press Briefing by U.S. Dept. of Sta
- From: FreeBurma@xxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 24 May 1996 12:34:00
Subject: Press Briefing by U.S. Dept. of State (May 23, 1996)
Attn: Burma Newsreaders
RE: Press Briefing by U.S. Dept. of State (May 23, 1996)
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
Thursday, May 23, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Q. Do you have any update on Burma?
MR. BURNS: What I can say is, unfortunately, the situation in Burma
continues to worsen. Unfortunately, I believe, according to the National
League for Democracy
itself, as of this morning, 192 members of the National League for Democracy
have been detained. That includes Aung San Suu Kyi's press assistant,
unfortunately. I believe she was the one who gave the press in Rangoon this
morning the figure of 192. This is deplorable that this democratic group
would have nearly its entire membership -- of the
senior membership -- most of whom were elected in 1990, in the elections that
annuled-- it's deplorable that the military leadership there would have taken
We very strongly oppose it. We call on Burma's neighbors to oppose it
Q. What kind of conversation do you have with Burma's neighborhood
MR. BURNS: We have an active conversation under way.
Q. What kind of reaction?
MR. BURNS: What is the reaction? Those countries will have to speak
for themselves. I can't speak for any of them; but I can tell you we have an
active conversation with them about the best way to deal with the SLORC, with
military leaders there.
Q. Are you disappointed in the reaction of U.S. friends in the
region, their failure to speak out very strongly against this?
MR. BURNS: Let me choose my own words. We believe that they should
understand that this is a fundamental challenge to the future of democracy in
Burma. The Nobel Prize Laureate, the democratic leader recognized by the
democratic community of Burma, is effectively not free to talk to her
compatriots. She has spoken out. She deserves international support, and we
are giving her that kind of
So, yes, I would say that Burma's neighbors in Asia, and all parts of
Asia, ought to reflect on that and ought to join with us in condemning this
Q. Nick, is there really anybody in this Administration that
thinks as long as the SLORC is around democracy will break out in Burma?
MR. BURNS: It's very hard to say, but I'm not sure -- our view is
that democracy should return to Burma, should be present in Burma. We can't
dictate or even predict how that will occur. But the beginning, obviously,
would be allow a courageous woman to meet with her compatriots and to talk
about these issues.
Our own position is this. We have had fairly tough, restrictive
measures in place on Burma for a long time. You know this probably better
than I do. But since 1988, we
have suspended our economic aid program. We have urged other potential
donors, such as Japan, to limit strictly any development assistance to Burma,
by itself or by the
multilateral development banks.
We believe that our influence with other countries has, in practice,
prevented most assistance to Burma from the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.
We do not promote U.S. commercial investment in Burma. We do not
promote, as a government, U.S. trade with Burma; neither Ex-Im Bank nor OPIC
provides loans or insurance for American companies selling to or investing in
I got a question yesterday from Carol. I didn't give her a very good
answer. I'll try to give you a better answer today on the McConnell-Moynihan
support the intent of the bill. We share its goals. We very much share the
concern of the Congress about the restrictions on democracy in Burma.
We do not rule out further U.S. sanctions against Burma. We are ready
to explore various measures with the Congress. What we want to do is, we
want to have an
effective U.S. response.
So, Carol, I can't say that we have -- we've not gone to Senator
McConnell or Senator Moynihan and said we support your bill in all respects.
We are going to them to say we want to talk to you about this, and we're not
ruling out any further course of action. We want to see how the situation
develops in the near future. I know that's a very accurate representation of
exactly where we are this morning with the Congress on this bill.
Q. What sort of sanctions might have an effect -- that U.S.
sanctions might have an effect on Burma?
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. In all situations, including
this one, we want to be effective so we've got to search for the right
Q. Is there a mechanism available outside of the Security Council
for the United States?
MR. BURNS: That's a question, Sid, perhaps you can answer as well as
anyone. That's one of the questions that we have to ask ourselves as we go
through this process. But, certainly, we think -- we've raised the
temperature over the last couple of days. We have denounced the Burmese
Government for its actions against Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, and
now the detention of 192 people.
We do not accept the proposition that somehow they're "guests of the
government" in a hotel someplace. We don't trust those statements, and
there's no reason why we should.
As we've said before, we're also very disturbed about incidents of
forced labor in Burma -- in the city of Mandalay and others. Entire cities
have been emptied out to
build public construction projects by the Government of Burma. They have
used civilians, as part of pressed-gangs to carry out defense projects and
civilian projects. There is a gross violation of human rights throughout
I think it's appropriate that the Congress should be seized by this.
We're seized by it, too. I think the challenge now for Congress and the
Administration is to work
out an effective American response.
Q. Are you saying that the Burmese have emptied out Mandalay, a
rather large city, and there's now some sort of --
MR. BURNS: There have been incidents in the past where that has been
the case, where towns have literally be emptied of their working population
for projects; where
people have been taken out of their jobs and homes and forced to work on
civilian and military projects. Yes, there is evidence of that. We've
talked about it before --
this is nothing new -- from this podium. But it is outrageous and it
deserves to be repeated.
MR. BURNS: Any final questions?
Q. Back to Burma. Were there travel restrictions? President
Clinton mentioned something about imposing travel restrictions to Burma? Is
MR. BURNS: President Clinton, today, mentioned that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we have imposed any travel restrictions
on Burma. I can look into this for you. I'm just not aware of it.
MR. BURNS: I don't remember that at all. I haven't seen any
reference to it.
Bill, did you have one last question or can we do it at the next
Q. I think I'll come up there.
MR. BURNS: Okay, thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:21 p.m.)